Rama hits ‘back stabbing’ vice mayor, ‘meddling’ guv

CONTENDERS. Possible and announced contenders for Cebu City mayor in the 2025 midterm elections are (from left) Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Councilor Nestor Archival, Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman and former Cebu City councilor Jose Daluz III, and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Central Visayas director Yogi Ruiz. Former mayor Tomas Osmeña said Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 that he would run for vice mayor to support Archival’s potential run for mayor. /
CONTENDERS. Possible and announced contenders for Cebu City mayor in the 2025 midterm elections are (from left) Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Councilor Nestor Archival, Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman and former Cebu City councilor Jose Daluz III, and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Central Visayas director Yogi Ruiz. Former mayor Tomas Osmeña said Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 that he would run for vice mayor to support Archival’s potential run for mayor. / FACEBOOK PAGES OF ARCHIVAL AND RUIZ; rama photo from cebu city mayor’s fb page; Daluz photo, sunstar file

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has expressed displeasure at the call of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and her nephew, Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, to stop the civil works on the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project on Osmeña Blvd., saying the governor should not meddle in the city’s project.

“Dili mang hilabot ug mag-apil-apil ang gobernador bisan memo na iyang gibuhat. Ang BRT dili man na mahimo nga way apil ang siyudad,” Rama said on City Hall’s program “Ingna’ng Mayor” Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

(The governor should not meddle, even if it is a memo that she made. For the BRT, it cannot be that the City Government is not involved.)

Last Tuesday, the governor had issued Memorandum 16-2024, ordering contractor Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Ltd. to stop the construction of bus stations on Province-owned lots on Osmeña Blvd.

The governor said the project’s proponents had not secured authorization from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) for the construction of the bus stations and that the construction could potentially violate the Philippine Heritage Law for being conducted within the buffer zones of the Capitol Building and the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, both of which could qualify as heritage zones.

Rama said enough is enough, saying that the Capitol should not meddle in the city’s projects.

“Katong Sinulog, niutong ko, apan karon, wala nay utongay. Atubangay ta,” Rama said.

(During the Sinulog, I just restrained myself, but now, no longer. We will confront each other now.)

Ahead of the staging of the Sinulog Festival last January, the governor had called for the return of the Sinulog to the Cebu City Sports Center, with Vice Mayor Garcia publicly announcing his support for this alternative, going against the position of Rama to hold the festival in the South Road Properties.

Rama said the role of a governor is to make a clear position whether “makig-kontra o makig-away (to make enemies or to pick quarrels).”

On the same day, the Cebu Provincial Government’s legal officer Donato Villa said it is the right of the Capitol to protect its heritage.


Rama said the move of his vice mayor, Garcia, to meet with his aunt Governor Garcia with some city officials, and discuss matters about the CBRT, was a stab in the back of the mayor.

“Wala koy kalibutan nga gatigum sila didto. Treachery na para nako...gibuko-buko ko. Kombuya man na,” Rama said.

(I had no idea that they had a meeting. For me, that’s treachery. I was stabbed in the back. That’s connivance.)

In his meeting with the legislative body Wednesday night, Feb. 28, Rama said he expressed his displeasure, saying, “Wala ko kauyon sa privilege speech.”

(I don’t approve of that privilege speech.)

Last Wednesday, Vice Mayor Garcia had delivered a privilege speech during the regular session of the Cebu City Council requesting the Office of the Building Official (OBO) to issue a cease and desist order (CDO) against the CBRT contractor as he sought a better design for the bus stations that could be proposed to the appropriate bodies, including the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (Chac) of Cebu City, and the Cebu City Council.

Rama explained that it is also his concern because he is always for the preservation of heritage.

In his speech, Garcia also urged Chac to collaborate with their counterparts in the Province of Cebu to explore alternative designs, ensuring they are more complimentary and in conformity with existing laws and policies.

Rama said he was unhappy with Garcia’s privilege speech, saying that he did not even like the Capitol’s issuing of the memorandum.

He said the matters raised in Garcia’s speech could have been discussed privately, as Garcia and the rest of the council could always have an emergency meeting with him.

Are you with me?

Asked about his relationship with the vice mayor, Rama said not to push him to do something, saying that he is giving them the freedom.

“Are you now manifesting? Nanayaw ra ba mo ... kuyog sa Probinsya. (You danced together with the Province.) Tell me, straight in the eye, are you with me, or are you forming a group?” Rama said.

Asked if VM Garcia would run against him in 2025, Rama said he could not do anything if Garcia, or even the dog of arch rival Tomas Osmeña, would run against him.

Just two weeks ago, Rama and Garcia had announced that they would run for reelection as a tandem in 2025.

Sought for comment on not consulting Rama about his privilege speech, Vice Mayor Garcia said it was Rama who wanted to bring up the matter to the Chac in a meeting to be held next week.

Vice Mayor Garcia said the issue at hand could not wait any longer and that is why he acted on it. So assuming that he and Chac would have the same position, he delivered the speech.

“Di na ta makahuwat for the executive to act kay makita na man gyud nimo nga naa na man gyud poste nga silver nga tua na didto. Nagsugod na gyud og construction ang ilang bus station,” VM Garcia said.

(We can no longer wait for the executive to act because we can already see the silver posts that they are building. They have already started the construction of their bus station.)

Under the circumstances, he saw it fit to make a privilege speech requesting the OBO to issue a CDO immediately.

The vice mayor said there was nothing to worry about because both of them had the same passion and love for heritage. He said Rama was just being emotional about it but not mad about the council making a position.

Lot owner

In a press conference on Thursday, Cebu Provincial Legal Officer Villa said the Capitol’s order to halt the works on the CBRT on Osmeña Blvd. from the Cebu Capitol building to the Fuente Osmeña Circle, represented its stand as the owner of the road lots where the project was situated.

Villa said the bus station of the CBRT in front of the Capitol building, as currently designed, blocks the view of cultural and heritage sites, namely the Capitol building and the Fuente Osmeña Circle.

This was a clear violation of Republic Act 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, which mandates the protection, conservation and preservation of the national cultural heritage.

“This is a violation of the right of the Province, particularly on its cultural heritage, wherein it is affected by that particular structure,” Villa said, about the concerns raised on the CBRT as one of the priority projects of the national government.

“It is the right of the Province... to issue a cease and desist order (against anybody causing us harm),” Villa added.

Section 49 of RA 10066 states that upon conviction, the violators are subject to fines of at least P200,000 and/or imprisonment of 10 years, Villa said.

When asked if Capitol would pursue legal remedies, Villa said this is not yet the Provincial Government’s position unless the contractor refuses to heed the CDO of the governor.


On the question of the general public “Why now?” when this portion of the project is almost complete, Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales, a member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), explained during the same conference that they were only recently made aware of the design of the bus station.

Bersales was referring to the tall leaf-like structure located in front of the Capitol Building.

Last week, he observed that the design of these structures, once finished, would potentially block the view of the Capitol Building from Fuente Osmeña Rotunda.

The modern design of the bus station would also clash with the neoclassical to art deco style of the Capitol Building, Bersales added.

This prompted him to send letters to the governor for immediate attention.

Bersales is the Capitol consultant on museums and heritage.

He added that the Principle of Vista Corridor, in terms of cultural and heritage protection, applies to the Capitol Building and the Fuente Osmeña Circle.

The Vista Corridor principle refers to the unhampered or unimpeded visual setting and physical integrity of a heritage property.

Therefore, Bersales emphasized, “no other structure” must blemish the visual space, the line of sight and the appearance of the Capitol vis-a-vis Fuente Osmeña including Osmeña Blvd.

He argued that these road lots or the corridor have been a place of historical significance to Cebu, as this has been a location of key events in the past, including the procession of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016, the 1954 Marian Year procession, the Grand Victory March after World War 2 in 1945, and as landing field for Catalina-type aircraft during the Liberation of Cebu in April 1945.

He added that the Capitol building is a National Historical Landmark and has Grade One level protection, the highest among the levels of protection for any heritage site under RA 10066.

Therefore, Bersales argued, any construction within these lots requires NCCA or the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) approval as mandated under RA 10066, which mandates the protection of structures 50 years and older.

However, since there is no record of any design and plan submitted to NCCA regarding the bus station on the Province-owned lot, this constitutes a violation on the part of the proponent.

For the project to proceed, the proponent of the CBRT has to come up with a new design plan and submit it to the NCCA and NHCP for approval.

“Yes, but if the Province has a different position altogether to scrap the entire project that is another discussion. But in so far as the heritage is concerned, that is an important issue that first has to be answered now,” Bersales added.

Photos, video

The groundbreaking of the CBRT took place on Feb. 27, 2023.

But photos of the bus stations featuring the large leaf pattern were uploaded on the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Facebook page as early as June 2, 2022.

They were posted again in September 2023 with the Department of Transportation making a call for feedback and suggestions on the project.

A video of the bus stations was also posted on Aug. 14, 2023.


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